PARK BENCHES, whether sun scorched or dew dappled, are rarely left unattended. Most of us
willingly accept a bench’s invitation to stop and
rest for a moment—to plan our next move, eat a
quick lunch, or simply take in all the day has to offer in our neck of the universe. We are not usually
looking for conversation when sitting alone on a
bench. But somehow conversation finds us.
Once while I was sitting on a park bench on
a crisp summer morning, a good-looking young man, lying in the grass
a short distance away, started smiling at me. I was sure he was flirting
with me, so I looked away without acknowledging him. Eventually that
old bench beckoned him to come sit beside me. Darn, I thought. I really
wanted to finish this book. But there I was politely saying, “Good morn-
ing,” and allowing the conversation to flow.
I can’t remember the book I was so intent on reading, but I will
never forget my conversation with this beautiful soul. Slowly, but with
determination he got his story out. He told me of his love and loss and
struggle to get his life back on track. I was mesmerized by the rawness
and honesty of his words. In the weeks that followed, I encountered
this young man several times in the park, and each time I learned more
details of his road to healing and wholeness. He asked few details about
me. I wasn’t sure he even knew my name. On what came to be our final
meeting, he handed me a gift and asked me not to open it until he was
gone. He said, “Thank you for letting me talk and for listening,” and
with that he was gone. When he passed from view, I opened the gift he
had given me. It was a necklace with my name engraved on it.
I consider this my Emmaus story—a chance encounter with someone who only later did I recognize to be a divine emissary sent to help
me know what was most important: Being open, available, and welcoming to strangers and always, always inviting God into the conversation.
Our annual VISION vocation discernment guide is designed specifically to encourage you to invite God into all of your internal and
external conversations about who you are and want to be, and what will
give you the greatest joy. Every article provides definitions and examples
of what a life-fulfilling vocation looks like and how to discern which
vocation is right for you. Please take the time you need to weigh your
options. Perhaps an hour spent sitting on a bench in a park will help
bring you clarity. You never know who you’ll chance to meet!
—Patrice J. Tuohy, VISION Publisher
Chance encounters of the divine kind
Check out these award-winning online resources from VISION
VOCATION MATCH A discernment tool to help you narrow your search for the
QUESTIONS CATHOLICS ASK A regular feature shedding light on the traditions
and practices of our rich Catholic heritage.
E-VOCATION NEWSLETTER Monthly insights on discernment matters and help
on your vocation journey. Sign up at VocationNetwork.org/newsletter.